The nature of symbolic language

The Nature of Symbolic Language In his essay Erich Fromm explores the very way in which we share personal experiences with each other through language. He makes clear distinctions between the three types of symbolic language, conventional, accidental, and universal, and he uses these distinctions to explain the reality behind an important part of our lives we don’t even think about. Fromm purposely uses language that makes his thoughts easier to understand which adds depth to his writing and also supports his purpose for writing the essay. Fromm’s purpose in the essay is simple and purposely blatantly obvious; he simply wants the reader to think about the importance of symbolic language and understand it. At the beginning of his essay when he is explaining conventional symbolism and using the word table and the thing table as an example he brings up the importance of conventional symbolism without even directly stating it. To be able to say one short five letter word of abstract creation and have it refer to something tangible is an amazing thing yet most people don’t even think about it or realize its importance. This idea suggested by Fromm, yet not directly addressed, by itself causes another idea, once again not directly addressed by Fromm, to surface in the mind of the reader; the idea behind the importance of names and labels. The way Fromm explains the three types of symbolism also demonstrates their meaning. By naming the three different types of symbolism he ties them together by conventional symbolism, the fact that he ties abstract ideas with themselves makes it even more thought provoking. When he describes accidental symbolism he once again implies but does not explore the importance of this particular form of symbolism. Without accidental symbolism we would be unable to describe feelings or experiences adequately. When Fromm finally gets to universal symbolism things get distorted, which is a break from his normal clear and solid way of writing. His explanation of universal symbolism isn’t quite a contradiction and its not confusing either it is just different. As he says universal symbolism is understood by all humans but it is like a forgotten language, his example being ancient languages and an experiment with hypnosis. If universal symbolism is indeed understood by all human how could it be forgotten or improperly interpreted? In any case his explanation of universal symbolism is the only outcropping of inconsistency. The rest of Fromm’s essay is mostly a deeper exploration of symbolism and its presence in reality and it provides a way to explore Fromm’s writing style. As I said before he didn’t always directly address ideas but instead hinted to them and let the reader explore those ideas themselves. Although this isn’t exactly a unique characteristic in writing the combination of direct and concise language in his essay and the very topic Fromm was exploring made it unique. The fact that Fromm was a social psychologist also definitely impacted his writing style, it could even be the explanation behind both why he chose this topic and how he was able to maintain a stable flow in the essay with his language usage. One final thing to comment on would be his reliance on logic throughout most of the essay rather than feelings and emotions. All in all Fromm’s essay did exactly what he intended it to do, cause the reader to probe the abstract entity of symbolism. Not only was this purpose achieved but it was done without causing immense confusion in the reader’s mind which is another unique aspect of this essay.